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Easy surveys for free magazine subscriptions - RewardSurvey


How would you like free subscription to The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, or Forbes? RewardSurvey allows you to do just that.

Now that electronic devices can be used throughout flight, maybe travelers will read magazines and newspapers on airplanes less frequently, but I guess I'm old school in this way.  Then again, many airlines outside the US still provided free newspapers to their customers, so I'm sure I'm not alone.  

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Maintaining United lounge access in 2014 and beyond

United Club

I seeking advice on how to renew lounge access for my routine travels, primarily on United.  

United Club in Austin, photo thanks to Kevin


I have never directly paid for a United Club membership.  For the last 2 years, I had access thanks to my United Club Visa card.  The first year fee was waived as a promotion, that is still available on occasion.  Prior to that, I used my BMI Gold status to ...

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Austrian Airlines Business Class Vienna to Chicago - Star to Spain


After a great trip to Spain, as an AvGeek, the last leg of the trip was one of my most anticipated segments, our ride home in Austrian Airlines Business Class.  

 In case you forget which airline you are flying, just check the bulkhead.  


Austrian recently completed a 90 Million Euro renovation to their entire longhaul fleet, currently consisting of 4 777-200ER and 6 767-300ER. ...

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NEXUS kiosks to be updated, plus additional member benefits


I haven't flown to Canada in several months, and I haven't noticed any technical issues with NEXUS kiosks, but I am not surprised that this excellent program is popular.  I have a trip across the border next week, but hopefully there won't be any delays.  I never had to wait more than a minute to get to a NEXUS kiosk.

My occasional travel across the border made the NEXUS application very worthwhile, especially since it makes me eligible for PreCheck and Global ...

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The Le Meridien Vienna - Star to Spain


This trip was primarily intended to go Spain, but I was happy to explore some new places even for a short stay.  We ended up book ending this trip with some short overnights in some major capitals, Zurich, Madrid and now Vienna.

The sitting room in our Executive Suite at Le Meridien Vienna

We opted for a cash and points booking at Le Meridien Vienna.  As a category 5 property, it cost 6000 points plus $110.  That seemed the ...

Bad data in United app, operational delays and expired beer



Yes, another blog post on United's poor operational performance.  As always, the experience flying with United is a mixed bag.  Being a United regular and 1K, I generally know how to handle these issues, but I always feel for the less frequent travelers who get such a poor impression of the airline due to it poorly managing so many aspects of their operation.


Of course, this trip was in February, so the weather didn't look anything like ...

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Skip the hotel reception desk - Aloft Hotels offer Smart Check-In


Starwood Preferred Guest continues to be innovative in their promotions and programs.  Recently, they offered a special program to allow guests to bypass the check in desk, by providing a reusable RFID card that could be used as a guest key at certain properties.  

My Smart Check-In card arrived 

As of right now, Smart Check-In is limited to a few Aloft hotels.  There are eight currently, and 4 more in the pipeline. ...

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AVE high speed train for a day in Madrid - Star to Spain


Most of my trip reports are about airplane and hotel experiences, but for some variety, here is a quick review of the AVE high speed train that we took from Seville to Madrid.  Plus, a little bit from our brief time in Madrid.

AVE train at Seville Santa Justa station


Thanks to booking somewhat late due to some uncertainty of our plans, we had to pay a slight premium.  The cheapest ticket ...

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Lessening the sting of the Hyatt devaluation


Now that the global economy is improving, it seems the most travel loyalty programs are going through devaluations.  United's major devaluation took effect in early February.  This is almost an annual process at some hotel chains.


The Park Hyatt Maldives, now 25,000 Gold Passport points per night

As of January 7, 2014, Hyatt has increased the cost to book many of their properties using ...

The Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville- Star to Spain


After our time in Málaga and Granada, our last stop on our trip in Andalusia was in Seville.  Here we let a hotel promotion help guide our destination planning to some extent.  I had some free SPG nights to use, so we tried to maximize this redemption.  Since this is an expensive Category 6 hotel (second highest for SPG, and the highest we could use for this particular deal), I think we got a great value for the Luxury Collection ...

Presidential Suite at the Sheraton San Diego Marina - Free Upgrade!


Everyone likes surprises.  On a recent trip to San Diego, when I walked up to my hotel room after checking in, I was certainly surprised to see this:

An upgrade to the Presidential Suite, for free!

I have been quite fortunate with free upgrades in my Starwood stays through the years, but this was the first time I've received a Presidential Suite.  Unfortunately, my stay at was quite brief.  I was just ...

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AC Palacio de Santa Paula, Autograph Collection in Granada - Star to Spain


Our next stop on our tour of Southern Spain was in Granada, home of the famous Alhambra. While here we would stay in another AC hotel.  


Fountains on the grounds of the Generalife

Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, only an hour or so from the Mediterraean coast, but also near Alpine skiing areas.  We visited in late October, and the temperatures were comfortable for ...

The AC Hotel Málaga Palacio - Star to Spain


We finally were in one of the main destinations of our trip, and other than my wife's delayed bag, we were well rested and ready to explore Andalusia for the first time.


 Málaga, Spain


When booking hotels for leisure travel, I generally start by looking at my preferred programs; Starwood and Hyatt Gold Passport.  For visiting this part of ...

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Our layover in Brussels and Zurich - Star to Spain


Despite United's delay getting us to Dulles, ultimately we made it to Brussels on schedule.  We now had approximately 2 hours until our onward flight to Zürich.


Brussels Airport A pier, photo via creative commons


Once at the Schengen gates where we would take our flight to Zürich, we looked for a lounge to relax.  There are a few options, but despite arriving on ...

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Brussels Airlines Business Class from Dulles to Brussels - Star to Spain


Our vacation to Europe was nearly derailed before we even left the US.  Yet again United's operational difficulties caused a lot of stress.  We sat on board at O'Hare ready for an on time departure but there were various issues that ultimately lead to a delay of over an hour. 

Brussels Airline staggered Business Class seating


Apparently there was another earlier flight to Dulles that ...

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The anatomy of trip planning, an introduction - Star to Spain


Next up on my list of trip reports is our recent journey to Spain in Star Alliance Business Class. Our longhaul flights were on new business class products on Brussels and Austrian Airlines.  

I mentioned my excitement about booking this trip, which was something a bit different for me; a trip to Europe which I haven't visited in a while as well as a Star Alliance Business Class redemption which I haven't done recently either.  I also did a brief preview post ...

2013 in review- a lot of Regionals, but some First too


It is nearly 2014, which means it is time to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the what the new year may bring.  It also means the counters reset for elite status qualification (argh!)

Here is my flight map from 2013.  

Obviously much of my flying was domestic for business travel.  Most of my trip reports were from more interesting award travels.  This post will discuss some comments and statistics on my 2013 ...

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Singapore Airlines First Class Seoul to San Francisco SQ15 - Singapore Award


This would be the final leg of our trip in Singapore Airlines First Class to the Park Hyatt Maldives.  Both of these are difficult to access, so this was definitely a unique trip  We booked the Singapore Airlines space with Mileage Plus miles during a glitch while they were updating some systems.  The Park Hyatt was booked using Passport Escape award, which is no longer offered, and due to some devaluations, this property is even more ...

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Singapore Airlines First Class to Seoul SQ15 - Singapore Award


The final legs of my trip to the Maldives and in Singapore First Class would take us back to the US from Singapore with a stop in Seoul.  


We had already flown this route in the reverse direction on the outbound journey to Singapore.  Like most eastbound trans-Pacific flights, it was a daytime flight.  Our day began with a visit to the lovely Singapore Airlines Private Room, used for departing First and Suites Class passengers.  

As ...

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Why would anyone voluntarily fly United...


...well, besides me?  

Despite doing many things wrong, and being rather customer 'un-Friendly', for a few reasons which I will discuss; they will remain my airline of choice, at least for another year or so.


I discussed my recent travel difficulties when my trips were affected by weather.  This wasn't United's fault at all, but their customer service recovery is lacking is so many aspects.  I was switched to flights on Delta, which was my only ...

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